The Meaning of Barely: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of barely? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word barely, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word barely mean?

According to Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word barely is an adverb that means only just, or almost not. This word is often used to describe something that has almost not happened. This word is very common and can be used in many different contexts and scenarios in English. This term is used in both American English and British English. 

Many other languages also contain words that mean barely. You may notice that some of these words look similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning and also look and sound similar across languages. These words are often formed when two words have the same language of origin or root word. Translations for different words are useful to know if you are communicating with someone who does not speak English or if you are traveling to a foreign country. This list of translations for barely is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Korean: 겨우‎ (gyeou)
  •  Dutch: nauwelijks‎, amper‎, (archaic) kuim‎
  •  Polish: ledwo‎, ledwie‎
  •  Bulgarian: едва‎ (edva), само‎ (samo)
  •  Ido: apene‎
  •  Portuguese: apenas‎
  •  Romanian: de abia‎
  •  Scottish Gaelic: air èiginn‎
  •  French: à peine‎
  •  Campidanese: appenas‎
  •  Sassarese: aìzu‎
  •  Spanish: apenas‎
  •  Japanese: ぎりぎり‎ (girigiri)
  •  Finnish: tuskin‎, töin tuskin‎, hädin tuskin‎, juuri ja juuri‎, nipin napin‎
  •  Norwegian: så vidt‎
  •  German: kaum‎
  •  Russian: едва́‎, е́ле-е́ле‎, лишь‎, то́лько‎
  •  Mandarin: 僅僅‎, 仅仅‎ (jǐnjǐn)
  •  Logudorese: accalaítzu‎, azìgu‎, izu‎
  •  Italian: appena‎
  •  Catalan: a penes‎

What is the origin of the word barely?

According to Etymonline, the word barely comes from the Old English bærlice meaning  openly or clearly. This has been used to mean only just or not more than since the late 15th century. It was used in Middle English to mean solely or exclusively. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word barely?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word barely. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another given word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to avoid repeating yourself and to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word barely is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  almost not
  •  detectably
  •  not notably
  •  once in a blue moon
  •  not much
  •  no way
  •  not a bit
  •  practically
  •  not quite
  •  only just
  •  gradually
  •  sparsely
  •  not by much
  •  scarcely
  •  simply
  •  by a hair
  •  not at all
  •  with trouble
  •  not often
  •  no more than
  •  only
  •  almost
  •  almost inconceivably
  •  just barely
  •  sporadically
  •  hardly
  •  faintly
  •  by no means
  •  somewhat
  •  perceptibly
  •  scantily
  •  not noticeably
  •  not measurably
  •  imperceptibly
  •  just
  •  not likely
  •  pretty near
  •  infrequently
  •  scantly
  •  rarely
  •  not markedly
  •  slightly
  •  seldom
  •  comparatively
  •  little

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word barely. These opposite words are called antonyms. These are another great way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for barely is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  repeatedly
  •  many times
  •  uncommonly
  •  deeply
  •  in many instances
  •  at times
  •  successively
  •  not seldom
  •  extremely
  •  exceedingly
  •  decidedly
  •  vastly
  •  usually
  •  habitually
  •  excessively
  •  time and again
  •  extraordinarily
  •  thick and fast
  •  prodigiously
  •  profoundly
  •  considerably
  •  as a rule
  •  emphatically
  •  wonderfully
  •  ofttimes
  •  extensively
  •  much
  •  terribly
  •  notably
  •  positively
  •  by ordinary
  •  in quick succession
  •  remarkably
  •  over and over
  •  oft
  •  very
  •  greatly
  •  surpassingly
  •  pretty
  •  every now and then
  •  exaggeratedly
  •  superlatively
  •  largely
  •  spasmodically
  •  commonly
  •  dearly
  •  highly
  •  ordinarily
  •  incredibly
  •  generally
  •  substantially
  •  again and again
  •  not infrequently
  •  frequently
  •  intermittently
  •  amply
  •  certainly
  •  truly
  •  acutely
  •  particularly
  •  awfully
  •  absolutely
  •  often
  •  many a time
  •  at short intervals
  •  oftentimes
  •  customarily
  •  surprisingly
  •  regularly
  •  periodically
  •  recurrently
  •  astonishingly
  •  pressingly
  •  unusually
  •  eminently
  •  powerfully
  •  indispensably
  •  at regular intervals
  •  very often
  •  noticeably

How can the word barely be used in a sentence?

This single word can be used in many different ways in American English. This word is not considered either casual or formal, which means that it can be used in either setting. You can use the word barely anywhere from a casual SMS text message or social media post or in a formal letter or professional business email. Try using the word of the day barely in a sentence today – you never know, it might become one of your new favorite words! There are many examples of the word barely in the following dialogs:

The disguise barely served as concealment for the true identity of the second child, Dave.

The new dress Anastasia bought for the first event at the theater barely fit; there was just enough room to zip it up.

Hana’s excuse for the quiz barely worked; she knew her teacher was suspicious of her grandmother’s birthday party in Florida. 

The candidate barely made it to the polls at the start of the democratic convention in the short time allotted

They could barely see the exoplanets and brilliant stars in the cheap telescope. 

They barely made it out of the tiny apartment before gallons of water began to pour out of the sprinklers; thankfully, they heard the fire bell and the fire truck approaching. 

The batter barely made it to the end of the evening on the final night of playoffs; he injured his shoulder the night before and was in immense pain.

Overall, the word barely (adv, “​​ˈbɛəlɪ”) is used to describe something that has only just happened or been executed. This action happens in a scanty way or scanty manner, with little excess quantity or length of time. Related words include bare. Try using this word today!


  1. barely: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. BARELY Synonyms: 6 Synonyms & Antonyms for BARELY | Thesaurus 
  3. barely | Origin and meaning of barely | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. VERY Synonyms: 82 Synonyms & Antonyms for VERY | Thesaurus 
  5. Barely | Definition of Barely | 
  6. Barely | Definition of Barely | Merriam-Webster